South Africa remains Africa’s best meeting and conference destination

A panoramic view of down town Johannesburg, South Africa. Picture: Unsplash

A panoramic view of down town Johannesburg, South Africa. Picture: Unsplash

Published May 31, 2024


After successfully hosting Africa’s Travel Indaba 2024, South African Tourism (SAT) revealed that South Africa continues to be the preferred destination in Africa for meetings and conferences.

According to SAT, South Africa improved its global ranking as a business event destination, moving up five spots in the 2023 International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) Global Ranking Report.

SAT also said that the country remained the number one meeting and conference destination in Africa and the Middle East, according to the 2023 ICCA ranking report.

“In 2023, South Africa hosted 98 association meetings and conferences that met the criteria set by the International Congress and Conventions Association (ICCA). These meetings contributed significantly to the South African economy, with a total estimated economic impact of just over R2 billion,” said SAT.

The agency responsible for the promotion of South Africa as a tourist destination said that ICCA uses strict criteria for its global rankings, including a requirement that only association conferences are recognised, excluding corporate or governmental meetings and conferences whilst these conferences must be attended by at least 50 international delegates, last at least two days, and rotate through at least three countries.

South African Tourism CEO, Nombulelo Guliwe, said the significance of the ranking accolade was in enhancing South Africa’s global standing as a prime destination for meetings; and highlighted the country’s progress beyond its pre-Covid performance, showcasing its resilience and growth in the tourism sector.

“South Africa’s ICCA ranking performance illustrates the resilience of the South African business events industry, which was among the first to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and one of the last to reopen.

“This performance showcases the efforts of the South African National Convention Bureau (SANCB) and the greater South African industry during the lockdown period to rebuild a pipeline of secure conferences for the country,” said Guliwe.

She highlighted that collaboration was vital for bidding on international meetings as it brings together the resources and expertise of various stakeholders, ensuring a comprehensive and competitive value proposition and demonstrate strong local support and commitment, enhancing the attractiveness of the bid.

Guliwe also noted that the SANCB collaborated with different provinces and stakeholders to bid to host meetings on behalf of the country: “All business events hosted in our country are crucial because they not only contribute to our arrival numbers and our economy, but they also showcase our expertise in the various economic sectors.

“This is great news for foreign direct investment, export opportunities and knowledge management and sharing.”

She revealed that for the 2023/2024 financial year, the SANCB had sourced and submitted 95 bids for international business events to be hosted in South Africa between 2024 and 2032.

“The 95 bid submissions have a combined estimated economic value of just over R1.5 billion and can potentially attract 60,040 international and regional delegates to South Africa between 2024 and 2032,” said the CEO.

She revealed that thus far, South Africa had won 19 bids, with an estimated economic impact of R85 million and a total of 3,055 delegates.

“The SANCB has committed R5.7 million through its Bid Support Programme for these secured conferences, which will also contribute to the regional spread of business events and will be hosted in Johannesburg, Tshwane, Ekurhuleni, Cape Town, Sun City, Parys, Skukuza, and Potchefstroom,” said Guliwe.

Some of the meetings secured for 2024 include the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics World Congress of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, the 32nd General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Global Telecommunications Conference and the World One Health Congress.